The Spy Who Loved Me

  • spy_who_loved_meYear:  1977
  • Director:  Lewis Gilbert
  • Series Rank:  #14
  • Year Rank:  #28
  • Oscar Nominations:  Original Score, Art Direction-Set Decoration, Original Song
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Original Song
  • Bond Girl:  Barbara Bach (Anya Amasova)
  • Bond Villain:  Curt Jürgens (Stromberg), Richard Kiel (Jaws)
  • Bond Support:  Bernard Lee (M), Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Walter Gotell (General Gogol)

Guy Hamilton had directed the best Bond film to date (Goldfinger), but his three later Bond films all had greatly diminishing returns.  So the producers went back to Lewis Gilbert, whose previous Bond film, You Only Live Twice, was the worst to that point and is still one of the worst ever.  Yet, somehow this worked.  Gilbert moved away from the comedy that Hamilton had been stamping on the series, brought back the Russians as rivals, went with just a single Bond girl for only the second time and made the film that many (though not me) consider the best of the Roger Moore era.  I do think it is the second best of the Moore films though.  It established a less punny Moore, had a truly disturbing secondary villain and provided some good Bond action.

Curd Jurgens plays Karl Stromberg in "The Spy Who Loved Me" Original Filename: TSWLM_Karl_Stromberg.jpg

Unfortunately, the downside to having Gilbert back is that he seemed to go straight back to his plot from his previous outing.  This time, instead of a rocket swallowing up various satellites, it’s a giant tanker that’s swallowing nuclear submarines, with the intention of starting a war and creating a new society under the sea.  I swear I’m not making that up.  That’s the plan of Stromberg, one of the world’s richest men, and, as played by Curt Jürgens, possibly the most lackluster villain to ever appear in a Bond film.  He’s just an older rich guy who sits around making threats.  The real menace in the film is provided by Jaws.

jaws1Jaws is a ridiculously unstoppable killing force.  Bond manages to evade him a few times by, among other things, dropping part of an Egyptian pyramid on his head, sticking a live socket in his metal teeth and forcing his car off the road, down a cliff and into a hut.  None of these kill Jaws.  They barely slow him down.  At the end of the film he kills a shark and swims away.  Though he is inspired by a character in the original novel who had metal-capped teeth, he is basically a creation of the filmmakers (the novel was disregarded entirely except for the title) and I can’t help but think that he is named Jaws because Spielberg was invited to direct this film but turned it down because of post-production work on Jaws.

bachIt’s good that Jaws is so fascinating as a villain (even though he never speaks) because the Bond girl is actually a bit of a letdown once you get down to thinking about her.  She is Major Anya Amasova.  She is also known as XXX and she is the Russian equivalent of Bond.  The two are familiar with each other, though they have not met before.  In the first half she is intriguing – she gets the upper hand on Bond numerous times and at a point when he thinks he is seducing her she slyly makes him look like a fool.  But then the two governments decide to team up against the super-villain (which is why General Gogol, a Russian, is listed as Bond support).  After that, if you watch closely, Anya does, well, pretty much nothing except stand there in outfits that, as Veronica points out, must use a lot of double-stick tape to keep her breasts from falling out of them.  They travel by train and are attacked by Jaws – Bond gets rid of him.  They go to Atlantis, Stromberg’s hideout, and Anya is treated like a trophy wife.  Lotus_Esprit_S1_Spy_Who_Loved_MeThey are chased in Bond’s lotus, but Bond is driving and it’s his car (yes, she pushes two buttons and says she stole the plans from the Brits, but then why does she seem so surprised that it turns into a submarine?).  When they are captured, she is dragged away and it’s Bond who does all the work rescuing her.  She even refuses to kill him when she has sworn to for no reason made clear to us (unless she really has fallen in love with him).  She’s fairly impressive in the first half, but in the second half, she’s really just eye candy.

1977_spy_who_loved_me_5Still, this does all add up to a significant improvement over the first two outings by Moore.  The filmmakers allow him to be more of himself rather than trying to make him into Connery and they allow the film to develop rather than force unnecessary humor onto it.  People took notice.  This film earned as many Oscar nominations as the five previous Bond films combined.  In fact, until Skyfall it was the only Bond film to receive multiple Oscar nominations.  Did it deserve them?  One was for the Score, and there really isn’t a whole lot to it.  One was for Art Direction and that might have been more for the gorgeous Egyptian scenery we see more than anything the filmmakers actually did.  And, well, one of them was for the song “Nobody Does It Better”.  I’m not a huge fan of the song, but it was a huge hit (#2 on Billboard, Oscar nom, Globe nom, even a Grammy nom for Song of the Year) and 1977 is a weak year for original songs so it does end up earning a Nighthawk nom.  But for Veronica, well, let’s just say she made the choice to go fix us some ice cream rather than sit and listen to Carly Simon.